TV Binge: Detention (返校, 2020)

Detention (返校, 2020)

Director: I-Hsuan Su, Shiang-an Chuang, Yi Liu

Cast: Lingwei Li, Ning Han, Guanzhi Huang, Jack Yao, Teng-hung Hsia, David hao, Guanxu Luo, Kunda Wu, Serena Fang, Carol Cheng, Han Chang, Jui-hsueh Tsai, Chih-chien Lin

A tormented student uncovers unsettling secrets at her remote high school as betrayal and a paranormal encounter upend her life. – IMDB

Based on the 2017 point and click horror game of the same name developed by Taiwanese game developers as their debut game, Detention has gone on to a horror movie adaptation in 2019 (review) and followed last year with the release of their Netflix series based on the game but having a different story arc moving into the 90s and using the backdrop of the original source material to create a psychological horror drama.

Running at 8 episodes, Detention is an interesting blend as it starts off in the psychological horror territory and gradually retracts into a more drama-focused direction as the characters come into place while bringing in a sort of time loop element in its finale. Perhaps the best area that this could be considered is more of a gothic drama as nothing is going to really scare you a lot save for a few moments perhaps the opening episode having the most horror-esque scene. It does have a lot of themes revolving more touchy subjects with suicide and mental illness being a big one.

This adaptation, while taking its own liberation in the 90s, still manages to weave in the key plot points of the source material. That being said, the two girls whether its the ghost girl from the 70s, Rui Xin who wants some kind of revenge and is using her pendant to occupy a girl with her own unknown agenda and luring them in by fulfilling their wishes and then pushing them a certain extent versus this latest new to town girl, Yun Xiang with her mental illness and broken family actually draws a strong parallel between the two characters that gradually form the two characters and their dependency and connection as well. The two are probably the more intriguing characters as both the past and the present runs its own course. The focus on the present makes it interesting to see a lot of taboo situations happen whether with messing with spirits or the student-teacher relationship or even the warped values of Greenwood high School.

Other than the two female leads, there are some pretty good characters here and some situations that truly do make for some ethics and morals to come into play. The more villainous type of characters definitely do an impressive job. In reality, the story even has this weird focus of making these men into pretty much horrible people overall from the selfish principal to the controlling Inspector Bai down to the new teacher, Shen Hua. Even the neglectful father of Yun Xiang is pretty much a very unlikeable sort of character. They all do such a great job at making you mostly despise their actions overall. Putting the villains aside, there is one character of note and that is Yun Xiang’s schoolmate Wen Liang who may be pegged as a bad student in school but in reality is one of the more down to earth and genuine character in the whole scenario and truly looking out for Yun Xiang while also being a link to the spirit world and a character linked to the past scenario.

Playing with themes of revenge, school troubles, mental illness, student/teacher relationship, its brings in a lot of different elements that come into play through the 8 episodes. While the pacing isn’t exactly speedy, it still feels well-paced enough to keep things moving constantly and revealing the story gradually. The last 3 episodes add in a really good element that gives the series a nice twist that manages to pull the past and present situation together that definitely adds to the whole end game. Overall, an impressive little Taiwanese series that involves the supernatural but also shows the bad side of some people.

Double Feature: Mary Poppins Returns (2018) & Tall Girl (2019)

DOUBLEFEATURE

The last double feature before the horror month is this one! As I try to work through some of the Disney movies on Netflix before it leaves, I managed to get in Mary Poppins Returns and then paired it up with something that I ended up watching as a multitasking film and it was the rather new Netflix Originals, Tall Girl.

Let’s check it out!

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

mary poppins returns

Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davis, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Jeremy Swift, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury

Decades after her original visit, the magical nanny returns to help the Banks siblings and Michael’s children through a difficult time in their lives. – IMDB

Arguably, a lot of the Disney remakes or sequels feels unnecessary and the same goes for Mary Poppins Returns. However, while it is unnecessary, Mary Poppins Returns still achieves quite a fun family adventure. It follows a lot of the same formula as the original in terms of the events and even using some of the same lines in reference. It all helps link the two together even if the setting is decades apart and Mary Poppins isn’t the same actress and the children in the original are all grown up and the children in this one are the children of Michael Banks of the original. In all those elements, it does build a good bridge between the two and holds a lot of the essence of the original even if it still doesn’t have the same charm as the first one.

What does change in this one are the songs. All the songs are different from start to finish even if say what used to be the Chim Chimeree song is another sequence with streetlight leeries (is that what its called?) and they do the big dance number also . Then the bird lady is replaced by the balloon lady portrayed as cameo by Angela Lansbury. Dick Van Dyke comes back not as his original role but as another cameo role as well. Not to mention, Colin Firth comes in as a supporting role as well. Some of the other changes is adding in a bit of romance for its characters. Of course, the biggest change is Emily Blunt playing Mary Poppins which was always a question of how it would change. While she doesn’t have quite the same charm as Julie Andrews, she does hold up her own. In fact, this role is so different from other roles she’s done (that I’ve seen) that it actually surprised me in a good way and I really enjoyed her take of Mary Poppins plus they still gave her some sharp dialogue and replies.

Mary Poppins Returns might not be necessary but its still a fun family film with some decent music and characters that I wouldn’t mind watching a few times (not hard since I’ve already watched it one more time afterwards). All in all, a pleasant surprise!

Tall Girl (2019)

Tall Girl

Director: Nzingha Stewart

Cast: Ava Michelle, Griffin Gluck, Sabrina Carpenter, Paris Berelc, Luke Eisner, Clara Wilsey, Angela Kinsey, Steve Zahn, Rico Paris, Bria Condon

Jodi, the tallest girl in her high school, has always felt uncomfortable in her own skin. But after years of slouching, being made fun of, and avoiding attention at all costs, Jodi finally decides to find the confidence to stand tall. – IMDB

Netflix Originals teen movies are usually a big bet to take. So far, I’ve really only liked the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and was alright with Sierra Burgess is a Loser (which really doesn’t hold us as much when you think more about it). In many ways, the issues with Sierra Burgess are pretty much the same ones that apply here. Teen romances have that really big issue with making girls always question their own self-confidence when they want to get the attention of a guy they like when they should be confident about themselves and their physical appearances, in this case, its her height, which constantly gets mocked by the people in school.

In the case of Tall Girl, the characters go through a weird character arc that everyone ends up going through this segment in their story where they are very hard to root for and somehow find their way back, of course whether its too late is the question for whatever situation they are tackling. While Tall Girl does have a few okay things and the better ones is how it chooses to end and the more inspirational speech that the main character Jodi talks about as she embraces her confidence and feels confident with her height.

Tall Girl just feels shallow and hollow. All the characters aren’t too deep and the story is rather formulaic and predictable. Its a story about finding your self-confidence and facing your feelings sort of deal, which is pretty basic but has a few good messages to share. What its trying to share has good intentions but just the execution and the script and some of the acting left a lot to be desired.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen Mary Poppins Returns and/or Tall Girl?

Valentine’s Double Feature: Candy Jar (2018) & Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (2011)

Day 2 of Valentine’s Marathon is here and this double feature is C & D selection from Netflix alphabet. This time, we are looking at Netflix film Candy Jar released last year. For the next one is a 2011 Hong Kong International Film Festival opening film  Don’t Go Breaking My Heart starring two Hong Kong heartthrobs, Louis Koo and Daniel Wu. Its already looking up from the starting double feature yesterday!

Let’s check it out!

Candy Jar (2018)

Candy Jar

Director: Ben Shelton

Cast: Jacob Latimore, Sami Gayle, Helen Hunt, Christina Hendricks, Uzo Aduba

Dueling high school debate champs who are at odds on just about everything forge ahead with ambitious plans to get into the colleges of their dreams. – IMDB

Candy Jar is really very borderline teen romance. Its more of a coming of age with some little romance of debate enemies with social status differences as well that end up finding their true meaning together and start falling for each other. There’s some chemistry there but the movie has these heavy debate moments which just keeps repeating over and over again in a rather unnecessary means. I think it was to emphasis the debate process of talking extremely fast that they are like robot and losing the meaning of living and experiencing human emotions. Candy Jar is a pretty average film. Its harmless in its story and has a rather positive message of being true to yourself and living with life’s inevitable wins and losses because sometimes something else is around the corner waiting for you and plans change. “Sometimes we lose” is something that these two learn throughout.

While I can’t say that the chemistry between these two was outstanding but they did have their good bits that worked with me. What I liked was seeing the friendship that they found between themselves when they lost someone equally important to them. It lead them to find their similarities more than their differences. With that said, Helen Hunt does a cameo supporting role of sorts and I really liked seeing her here even if it was a huge role. Although, I’m still scratching my head on why its called Candy Jar other than the fact that candy shows up a lot here.

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (2011)

Don't Go Breaking My Heart

Director: Johnnie To

Cast: Louis Koo, Yuanyuan Gao, Daniel Wu, Suet Lam

An original twist on an eternal triangle, where secret crush and unrequited love take on altogether newfangled meanings of their own. – IMDB

Never in a million years would I have thought Johnnie To would direct a romantic comedy. I’m not sure what skills it takes to do it because I’m not a director however as silly as some of this movie, because that is just how Hong Kong romantic comedy likes to do it, there’s this charm to this film that I love. I could be because I personally have been fans of Louis Koo and Daniel Wu since forever. I mean, I’ve almost felt like I’ve watched both of them since the beginning of their acting careers so its hard to not really love how they have grown as actors. However, I’ve never seen Yuanyuan Gao before although I love her style and how she interpreted this character. This movie is a really coming together of Hong Kong and China as the conversation is both in Mandarin and Cantonese and I like how it does that because some films will choose to dub, which almost never a fun movie experience. Plus, I applaud the movie how it give both the male leads their time in the movie, making it less conventional as a love triangle while still giving the ending a unconventional ending as well (at least it went the opposite of what I thought would happen and that made me happy because the female lead finally chose the guy I thought she should choose).

As much as I love Hong Kong film and know their little quirks and signatures that people like to lean towards in their plot lines, its always nice to see the attempt of something different. There are some huge romantic gestures here and some core romance values which is talked about here and the leads have chemistry in both their ways but the story does sometimes feel disjointed. There’s still some fun qualities out of this one that works for myself especially because it keeps its cast very tight so we can connect with these three leads.

That’s it for this Valentine’s Double Feature with C&D selection!
Have you seen any of these movies? Thoughts?

You Are The Apple Of My Eye (2011)

I’ve always been in love with Hong Kong movies as most of you already know.  This year, I’ve been watching a few Taiwanese flicks.  I do enjoy to watch a lot of Taiwanese dramas and most of my favorite singers are from Taiwan.  I guess its not too surprising that watching full-length movies was the next step!  If you don’t know, I used to read a lot of Chinese books as well, and this movie You Are the Apple of my Eye is based on the source material by Giddens Ko who makes his directorial debut also.

Here’s the trailer to start things off:

you are the apple of my eye posterDirector: Giddens Ko

Cast: Zhendong Ke, Michelle Chen, Shao-Wen Hao, Owodog, Chang-Tsien Tsai, Sheng-yu Yen, Wan Wan

This is a semi-autobiographical story about the author’s first crush throughout high school which grew as he started seeing the good in her and in turn influencing him to be a hardworking person to impress her. Almost everyone can relate to having crush in school.  In this case, the author in his high school days, Ching-Teng Ko along with his four best friends,  Kuo-Sheng Tsao, Ming-Ho Hsieh, Ying-Hung Liao, Bo-Chun Hsu, who are all different in their own way but all  followed the biggest crush of their life Chia-Yi Shen, the smartest and prettiest girl of their class, throughout junior and senior high.  Ching-Teng never saw what his other friends did until one day he stands up for her to take the blame from the teacher and gets punished and unknowingly gets Chia-yi to notice him and gradually, he starts seeing her beauty and falls for her also.

you are the apple of my eye chiayi and ching teng

Just to make this clear, although I don’t know the difference it would make.  I did read Giddens Ko novels BUT, I read two of his twisted horror ones only.  I do have one of his romance ones that I started but never finished yet and I haven’t read this particular one although I intend on getting to it eventually.  He is an incredibly talented author and as a director, I have to say he does a pretty good job at making this romantic drama-comedy appealing for the audience.  The only thing is that maybe some of the humor is very `”Taiwanese” comedy and its something that you get a bit more if you watch Taiwanese drama.  Even for me, there was parts I was a bit weirded out in the beginning.  Plus, it was a really close look at adolescent boys in high school and the fascination over sex and masturbation and the extremity of it and all. (I see weird search terms getting to this already…)

you are the apple of my eye ching teng ko

I have never watched these young actors before.  They did a really great job at this and just pulling us into the story gradually.  At the beginning, I felt this story a bit all over the place but as the story progressed, it turned from the necessary absurdity to a very sweet youthful and cute story of unrelentless pursuit for love.  Michelle Chen is a very charismatic and pretty actress and fits right in the role.  Her chemistry with Zhendong Ke was actually part of what drove this movie to be cute.  It pulled me right into this romance flick.

you are the apple of my eye chiayi shen

The comic relief has to be the young actors who play with Zhendong Ke as his best friends.  Every time the whole group was together, they reflected high school and how the days of being young was.  The days of not really having a lot of worry about but your life and then how they learn more about love, friendship and thinking about their future as they make the transition in life to the next step.

you are the apple of my eye best friends group

This flick is really entertaining and heartwarming and just totally awesome.  As awkward as some of the humor was, it does reach out and pull the audience into the story.  Its fun and really sweet for some parts of it as well.  A nice little trip back to high school and although I never was the popular and smart girl with lots of guys running after me, its youthful energy won my heart! You remember (500) Days of Summer? It made me feel a bit like that! Give this one a chance if it crosses your path! 🙂

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

perks-of-being-a-wallflowerHere we have my first book review to kick off 2013!

My Goodreads review: A beautifully written coming of age novel that directed us through the use of first person narration through the letters of the main character Charlie. Usually, I’m not a big fan of first person but in this case, it was plus. We saw the life of a young teenage boy in his middle school years and his encounter with others as a wallflower, someone who observes rather than “participates”. He’s scared to reveal his feelings and he journeys down the path of learning about everyone and along the way, a bit more about himself as well. Definitely worth a read! –> 4 out of 5 stars

 The actual definition of a wallflower according to Merriam Webster Dictionary is “a person from shyness or unpopularity remains on the sidelines of a social activity”.  Knowing the definition of a wallflower would probably help in understanding the book.  In other definitions I’ve read, it also includes someone who would rather observe than experience, which is the definition I used above.

Our main character, Charlie is exactly like that.  That’s also why we know his letters show how he viewed the situation and in many situations, would not do anything to help.  He would only do what others told him to or follow through with his friends actions.  Charlie’s story starts when he meets these misfits in school who weren’t exactly nerds but didn’t really side with the “popular” group.  They had their own interests and didn’t bother with the other people around them much.  Making these friends also lead him to explore the world of drugs, getting high, alcohol, love, dates, family ,Rocky Horror Show, friends, etc. just like most of us experience as students in our high school years.  On the side, we also know he has some psychiatric issues that he seems to find useless but we learn that is actually haunting him when he finally acknowledges his feelings.

Charlie writes this book in first person narration (as mentioned above) with letters written to someone unknown. It actually reminded me of a novel I read in high school called Go Ask Alice.  Being in first person really does help because we see Charlie’s world in Charlie’s eyes and being a wallflower, his observations probably are more accurate than even the person themselves. We also see how he does struggle to go out and do what is right by him and follow through his thoughts with action.  He’s scared to lose the people he cares about and he would show them what he believes they want to see.  Bit by bit, he gets thrown in situations where there is no other choice but to show his own feelings.  This is what we get to see as readers: how he learns to stop being a wallflower, being someone on the sidelines and finally facing up to his own problems with his own solutions.

Its really a nice read.  Of course, I don’t find it as much as of impact as other coming of age books.  They don’t make the situation too extreme but they also do explore a lot of high school issues that we’ve experienced when we were (or are) at that age.  Its makes you question whether being a wallflower is a good or bad thing. It gives us the idea of how there are moments when we really should step up and be ourselves, because when you’re a wallflower, you don’t voice your opinions and you possibly “lie” to the people you care about regarding how you actually feel.

Here’s the first book review.  I’m still not completely sure how to write it out and what to look at, but I’ll be thinking of that as I do more.  Any suggestions? Feel free to tell me.  Hope you enjoyed!